This is the first in a series of player profiles of Cleveland Cavaliers players and coaches who made a difference. These profiles will be found each Friday, here on Right Down Euclid.
This first piece is a bit of self-indulgence for me, as Austin Carr was my favorite player growing up in the late 1960s/early 1970s and is what inspired me to become a Cavs fan. Because of his extensive background, Carr’s profile will be presented in two parts: the first covering his college career and the second moving forward from the draft.
Born March 10, 1948, Carr grew up in Washington D.C where he led Macklin Catholic High School to the Catholic League title, scoring over 600 points in the 24 contests he played, which lead to him being named an All-American. Carr was heavily recruited, but the decision came down to the University of North Carolina and Notre Dame. Carr wrestled with the decision but fell in love with the ND campus when he visited. I guess it also didn’t hurt that his father was strongly pushing him to choose the Fighting Irish.
It didn’t take long for the 6’4”, 200-pound shooting guard to make his name once he reached the varsity team the beginning of his sophomore year. Carr averaged 22.1 points in the 1967-68 season on 49.0 percent shooting from the field. The next two seasons, Carr went ballistic, leading the nation in scoring with 38.1 PPG and 38.0 PPG respectively, while burning defenders with 55.6 percent and 51.7 percent shooting from the field respectively. Nine times Carr scored at least 50 points, and on 14 other occasions he put up 42 points or more. Had there been a three-point line back then, chances are he would have had more than 20 games where he tallied 50 or more points and probably 30 where he would have surpassed the 40-point mark.
In an interview with David Friedman from the Notre Dame athletics website, Carr recalled,
Usually what I tried to do – what I was taught to do – was to really diagnose the whole team, not just who I had to guard. I think that’s what really helped me a lot. At that time in college, they were trying the “box and one” and “triangle and two,” so I had to understand the scheme of the defense in order to figure out where I could get the shots from. That helped me going into the pros, too, because – as a lot of the veterans taught me – I learned how to get ready to play the game not just physically but mentally. When tournament time came, my game was just on because I wanted to win a championship so bad. I got in a zone because of the desire to win a championship.
And in the zone Carr was. Carr holds NCAA tournament records that may never be broken:
• A single-game scoring record of 61 points (25-of-44 from the field, 11-of-14 from the foul line) versus 21-4 Ohio University on March 7, 1970 in a 112-82 first-round victory. The closest anyone has come to that figure since then was when Navy’s David Robinson tallied 50 against Michigan in 1987. A shot chart from that 1970 Ohio game revealed that with a three-point line (which became a part of college basketball in 1986), Carr would have finished with more than 70 points.
• Highest NCAA Tournament scoring average in one year with a minimum of three games played. In 1970, Carr averaged 52.7 points in three games.
• Highest NCAA Tournament scoring average in a career with at least four games played — a 41.3 PPG average for Carr in seven contests. Next in line are Princeton’s Bill Bradley (33.7 PPG in nine games) and Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson (32.4 PPG in 10 games).
His senior year, the Irish were heavily favored to reach the Final Four after an 89-82 upset of No. 1 UCLA when Carr scored 46 points, the most ever against a John Wooden-coached team. Unfortunately, despite a 52-point performance by the 1971 Naismith Player of the Year in a first-round 102-94 NCAA Tournament victory versus TCU, the Irish were upset in the Sweet 16, in overtime by Drake, eliminating them from the tournament.
Two months later, Austin Carr was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree, the first person in his family to earn one. Carr is one of only three players to have their name on the “Ring of Fame” at Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavillion, along with Pat Riley and Luke Harangody. Before it became known as the Joyce Center and Purcell Pavillion, the arena was originally christened the ACC, which stands for Athletic & Convocation Center. However, to those who attended basketball games there from 1968 to 1971, they knew it simply as Austin Carr Coliseum.
Career NCAA Individual Scoring Averages (Minimum two seasons):
Pete Maravich (LSU) 44.2 PPG (1967-70)
Austin Carr (Notre Dame) 34.6 PPG (1968-71)
Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati) 33.8 PPG (1957-60)
Calvin Murphy (Niagara) 33.1 PPG (1967-70)
Frank Selvy (Furman) 32.5 PPG (1951-54)
Rick Mount (Purdue) 32.3 PPG (1967-70)